As the Oct. 15 deadline for Arkansans to their pay annual property taxes draws near, local officials encourage early filing to avoid penalties.

Property taxes include personal and real estate property and are based on their assessment values. The current assessment rate on personal and real estate property in Arkansas is 20 percent and is determined by dividing the market value by five, then multiplied by millage rate.

The taxes are used to fund schools, libraries and emergency personnel such as police and fire.

Filing property taxes early helps to avoid problems or confusion with individual returns.

"On real estate taxes, we get mail worked as early as we can, trying to avoid problems. Sometimes people could pay too much or too little, and if it’s not postmarked by the 15th you’re late and charged a penalty," Sebastian County Collector Judith Miller said.

Miller cautioned that delinquent taxes of over two years could be even more burdensome.

"If you don’t pay taxes for two years, we have to turn you over to the state land’s commissioner," she said. "That could mean not receiving your car tags, and having property taken away. If you pay by the 15th, it will save you money by not paying the penalty."

Sebastian County Assessor Becky Yandell reminded homeowners that they may be able to save money by applying for a homestead credit, if they apply by the Oct. 15 deadline.

"If you have a house worth $100,000, your taxes will be $1,050, and if you have the homestead credit, up to $350 is removed from your taxes. It’s a nice benefit a lot of people don’t know about," Yandell said.

Miller mentioned that those on a tight budget may pay their taxes in installments, rather than all at once.

"If it helps you with your budget, we accept payments quarterly, monthly, or weekly," she said. "You don’t have to pay it all at once, as long as we get it all before the 15th."

The Sebastian County collector’s office has received about 58 percent of its payments, totalling $51.9 million through September.

In Crawford County, the collector’s office has received about $15.5 million in tax payments, with $1.2 million in payments within the first few days of October, according to County Collector Kevin Pixley.

"We’ve received about 50-60 percent of our statements so far," Pixley said. "It seems like last year about 40 percent of people waited until October and that’s about where we are now, right at 40 percent, and a large majority of it is through the mail."

Property taxes may be paid through mail, online or in person at the local county collectors offices.